Last November King Abdullah issued a decree that Jordan's upcoming parliamentary elections should be a "model for transparency, fairness and integrity." As a result, the government has made some noteworthy efforts to comply with the king's instructions. Official voter registration lists have been published, women and urban populations will receive greater representation and, for the first time, international election observers will monitor voting on election day.
On the other hand, the recent electoral campaign has also reaffirmed the salience of identity politics based on patronage. Despite the growth of campaign websites and debates over participation through social networking sites, city streets are littered with posters that underscore the dominance of prominent personalities. Certain tribal-backed candidates have already locked up requisite support while other candidates are relying on family names and pre-existing "vote banks" to carry them to victory. In election tents across Jordan, politicos of all stripes (including women) are dishing out mansaf in hopes of reaching voters' hearts through their stomachs.
Opinions are thus decidedly mixed about the significance of the 2010 parliamentary elections for the liberalization process in Jordan. Although most are skeptical that the November 9 elections will provide an impetus for far-reaching political reform, some have expressed cautious optimism about improvements in the administrative procedures. Will a "better election process" lead to electoral reform down the road?